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Merck CEO Weighs in on HCV
  Merck Sells Consumer Business, Suggests No Hep C Price War with Gilead, AbbVie......
They stated this market is a "long-term opportunity" with significant cost burden to government and estimated annual costs could rise to $85B in next 5 years......consistent with [AbbVie and Gilead Sciences] comments and thus the players will be rational and have reasonable pricing without a price war and lead to a sustainable, healthy, large market of revenues......Merck also said that they would start testing their own hepatitis-C treatment with Gilead's Sovaldi as a way to decrease treatment times
Merck CEO: Act now to prevent higher hepatitis C costs later.......http://www.cnbc.com/id/101651481
In this interview with CNBC, Ken Frazier was asked "how do you compete considering several potent regimens will be on the market" Frazier's response: "over time, the best drug wins".
(from Jules: It is significant when the CEO of Merck publicly weighs in about HCV. Merck carries a certain cache, they have a good reputation & credibility in many circles including with the Federal govt & at the HHS & the FDA. So, the HCV discussions are just beginning to heat up. Over the next several years its very difficult to predict developments. For example, the HCV drug companies may be able to weigh in to convince Congress & the White House to spend the large amount of funding we need for HCV for screening & care, something that hepatitis advocates have been fighting to accomplish without much success for many years. Analysts commented that since Frazier in his interview did not raise the point of reducing prices to be competitive that means Merck will not lower price & Abbvie has made similar comments. However, there may be reasons why they might not say now if they would compete by lowering prices. For one, no one knows what the pricing landscape will be later this year after the launches of Abbvie & Gileads fixed dose combinations. Second, there may be legal restrictions to discussing such a sensitive issue. And third, why reveal your thinking now to your competitor. I am speculating of course, I have no idea what the companies will actually do regarding pricing. And fourth, we don't know yet how the discussions by payers & the public tone will evolve over time. Ken Frazier is correct when he says as others have mentioned that the cost of these drugs are less than the heavy cost burden on society we are facing for the significant numbers of patients who will age with advancing HCV, hospital, transplant costs will be many billions of dollars, it is less costly to treat & cure patients. Regarding global access to these new drugs, briefly, the companies have learned a lot from the wars over global access to HIV drugs. Gilead announced a plan to work with generic manufacturers in developing countries [Gilead aims to license hepatitis C drug to 3-4 Indian firms - (05/07/14)], there are still a lot of hurdles to overcome but this announcement came early from Gilead, unlike what happened in HIV years ago. All the stakeholders are paying close attention to the issues & developments. It will be helpful & important to reach out to & gain support from global health organizations like the UN, PEPFAR, Gates, etc and local governments in middle-income & developing countries like India, in Africa, the Far East.)
May the best drug win. That's how Merck Chief Executive Ken Frazier views the competition to treat the as many as 150 million people worldwide with hepatitis C.......The pharma giant has a combination of drugs in late-stage trials........Merck's treatment received breakthrough therapy designation from the Food and Drug Administration, which aims to speed important drugs to market. However, medicines from Gilead Sciences, Bristol-Myers Squibb, and AbbVie have the same status.......
........Frazier didn't say that the way to compete is on price-a particularly important point now as Gilead's drug, Sovaldi, has become a lightning rod for criticism over drug pricing........"People don't realize that the real impact to society of hepatitis C is yet to be felt, because the wave of cirrhotic patients is about eight years from now," Frazier said. "There's a lot that we need to do as a society to prevent all the costs of liver transplants and the like."
More than 75 percent of adults infected are baby boomers, and most don't know they're infected, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Over time, the virus can cause liver damage, scarring and cancer, making it the leading cause of liver transplants.
Frazier reiterated a stance Gilead has taken, noting that use of effective drugs for hepatitis C could prevent greater costs associated with the disease later in its course. Hepatitis C can lay dormant for years before showing symptoms. It also comes in multiple forms, called genotypes, and often patients have other maladies, known as comorbidities.
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